I was thrilled to see Tuesday; An Art Project at the AWP Minnesota Book Fair. Tuesday is THE most gorgeous poetry postcard publication I had ever seen, each issue a neatly wrapped treasure of letterpress postcards featuring poetry on some and art on others (the flipsides are blank for writing/mailing). However, the publication ceased with issue 11 in 2013. Okay, well, not “ceased,” but perhaps worse, the H-word: Hiatus. This conjures up all kinds of wonderings of what went wrong, will the publication come back, if it does – for how long this time? From my view at NewPages over the past decade, I’ve seen a lot of hiatuses (hiati?) – some with reason, some not – but very few ever return. While “hiatus” to some might mean hope, I know it better as a long, drawn out death, usually finalized because someone stops paying the web site domain name bill.
Not so says Tuesday Founding Editor Jennifer S. Flescher, who has a Kickstarter campaign going to sell advance subscriptions to fund the publication (along with other premium goodies). [NOTE: Until 4/21 a donor will match all contributions!] When I met up with her at AWP, I was happy to talk with her, but also concerned about the whole hiatus thing. She was glad to offer me some clarity on her perspective, especially when I wouldn’t stop hammering her with questions.
NP: Why did you go on hiatus? No need to get personal, but for some, it is very personal (health issues, family issues, etc.), which I think is important for others to understand, since so many literary publications are small (very small) businesses. If one person can’t function for whatever reason, that can put the whole publication in jeopardy. You did allude to some reasons in your farewell note to readers, but nothing terribly specific. So, spill. Why hiatus?
JF: Of course, this is a very difficult question. It makes me go a little white and cold, though I know you are right, to hear you say that hiatus is often just a hasbeen rockstars comeback tour… I didn’t want to come back for a year; I don’t want to come back for a year.
In terms of why I stepped away, there are two answers.
The first was actually entirely personal. I’m not sure if this is of any interest to your readers, but I had a sick child and I really needed to be home with him. That had been taking a toll for a few years, and finally I simply needed to put absolutely everything aside and be home. There. For him. I am grateful every day this was an option for me, and I send love and compassion to all the mothers and children who do not have that luxury. That remains a decision I am very proud of, even if it cost me the journal.
The second is really the more on-point answer, I suppose. Yes, that darn domain bill. I had been paying for the magazine largely by myself for many years. This is my dirty little secret. I remember hearing a very young publisher years ago at AWP confess she had sold her car to pay for her press – I thought she was crazy! But I did too, truly; I still have my car, but I didn’t take my kids on vacation, I didn’t do a lot of things. In the beginning I felt like it was a lot like graduate school, and that it was money I spent to create something I believe in. Tuesday has a ridiculous business model simply because of the price of its physical parts. It simply didn’t feel sustainable anymore. I needed to take a few years to really decide where I wanted to go next.
I want to find a sustainable model now. I needed to decide to be a publisher. We start these things – in MFA programs, in the middle of the night – we don’t really know what we are getting into, and that’s a good thing: we dive. Diving is so important for creation. But then comes the moment when you have to look around – is this water clean? do I like swimming?
I think there are real issues to be addressed in publishing. About diversity, about voice. Beauty. Access. Funding. Tangibility. I don’t pretend Tuesday is big enough to tackle any of this, or the press I have a vision of will be, but I feel like that is the work I would like to address as an editor. Tuesday either needed to bigger or smaller. It’s time to go bigger.
NP: Your Kickstarter campaign is asking people to pre-subscribe for two issues. What about after that? I mean, I’m sure you hope to have enough subscribers to continue the support – but…
JF: This is the $15,000 question. I feel like this is just what it was created to be – a kickstart. To get us back on our feet. Re-establish our base. Get us going for the next year. After that I want to pursue both traditional and non-traditional funding. Non-profit status and grants. Fundraising. Some sort of advertising. My real dream is to find corporate sponsorship. I don’t like the model we have going now where poor poets pay more and more for the publishing of poetry. First off, they can’t afford it. Secondly it exacerbates the money/publication gap. It prevents us from making the types of shifts in publishing that will open up publication to reflect the diversity of the important poetry in this country.
NP: Well, I’m a huge fan of Tuesday, so I’m giddy to see it come back (and, yes, have kicked in on the Kickstarter!). Thank you for all you’ve said here; I think you make some important statements about poetry and publishing that could benefit others.
JF: Thank you so much for all the support.